Creative agencies & small business owners can take, easy, non-political steps to help improve race and diversity issues.

This has been a really tough week for America and I fear that it will get worse before it gets better. You can read my thoughts on the difficult conversations that corporations need to have, but as a small business owner, I know that you likely do not have the bandwidth or urgent need to address race at work.

Many people feel that they should or would like to make a meaningful change or contribution to the conversation but are rightfully concerned about being too political, getting into sensitive conversations, and ultimately making a mistake. For businesses, a business-as-usual approach feels safest and easiest. We simply do not want to rock the boat or make anyone feel uncomfortable.

While you have to ensure that you are having the necessary conversations with your employees, there are other steps that you can take to advocate for diversity without putting your brand in harm’s way. Many people will advise that forcefully, loudly, advocating for minorities is the only way to protect your brand. We see it with companies such and Nikeand Ben & Jerry’s. However, those are well-established billion-dollar corporations.As a communications professional, you need to prepare yourself to be a leader when it comes to discussing race and diversity in the workplace⁠—for your own organization and for your clients.

If we are going to start having meaningful change around diversity in companies, we need to improve how we represent minorities in lists, awards, and promotions.

PR is 88% white (2018 Harvard Business Review analysis of federal labor statistics) and #Marketing is 74% white (Association of National Advertisers).

If you post a Top or Best Of list that contains 95% white professionals, you are misrepresenting the industry, minimizing the impact of minority professionals, and continuing the issues around race within these industries.

If you post a list or promote a group that is roughly 75 to 85% people of color (my term for all minority races) then you maybe be accurate, however you are supporting the status quo.

If your organization is striving to be anti-racist and to proactively support minority voices in the #communications #advertising or #marketing industries, your lists, accolades or awards should be highlighting more minorities.

Your company may be saying the right things to support diversity, but if your high-fives maintain the status quo, you are doing more harm than good.

As a small business owner, you really may not have the money, backing, and social standing to make broad-sweeping statements on current issues or events. You may not know what to say or what to do and may legitimately be worried about saying or doing the wrong thing. No one wants to get skewered by people on social media, where one wrong tweet can blow up the internet.

I am always here to chat if you have specific questions and I will be writing about this more often, but for now:

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3 Easy Non-Political Things to Improve Diversity & Inclusion

  1. Imagery

  2. Events

  3. Advocacy

Imagery

We know that we live in a diverse world and we know that information (accurate or otherwise) can be found by anyone, anytime, anyplace. A tweet can travel the world in 0.6 seconds and 100 million images are viewed globally every single day just on Instagram alone. As a small business owner you may manage your social media and marketing or you may have a small team. An easy step to ensure that you are helping to move diversity forward in this country is to analyze and change your imagery. Even if you are white, even if all of your employees are white, and even if you know all of your customers are white⁠—you can uplift people of color, contribute to making the world safe for people of all races and move diversity forward by using images with people of color. There are tons of free services online such as Pixabay and Pexels, and it is a super easy step, that won’t get you in hot water politically.

Events

I had a friend who was recently thrust into a social media crisis when her event announced the lineup for her virtual conference and posted the speakers who by unfortunate coincidence were all white. I know this person and I know she is not racist, but the timing (the post went live on the second day of protests in the U.S.) was disastrous, not to mention the total lack of awareness of the optics. The situation was such that as the event organizer, she had delegated much of the administrative tasks to other team members. She did not purposely instruct them to approve only white speakers, but, she also did not purposely instruct them to find a diverse panel. As the CEO, the buck stops with her and she had to make a public apology, field some very negative comments online, and she lost her keynote speaker, who resigned because diversity is one of his key values. The lesson here (besides checking your images, as noted above) is to make sure that your organization, if not diverse itself, is associating with diverse organizations. Look at your partners, vendors, and events and purposely guide your company into more diverse scenarios.

Advocacy

Which leads us to advocacy. Every small business supports someone in some way. You buy a case of Girl Scout cookies from the local troop. You pay for signage at the local football games. You spend money with other local organizations. You might not have the money to recruit a new team or to launch a political protest (even if you do have the money, it might not be wise to do so) but you can look at small expenditures and find ways to support groups that are doing the hard work of bringing racial equality to a reality. You can donate to a local nonprofit that might be slightly out of your geographical or demographical zone but is still doing important work. There are tons of non-political groups that serve minorities. Read their websites and find one.

None of these easy, non-political steps are intended to be a replacement to the difficult conversation that you likely need to have with your employees, partners, and customers, and if you are actively working against minorities or refuse to see the issue these will not matter, but as a small business owner, you can begin to take proactive steps to improve how your organization faces the difficult conversation of race in America.


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